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Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

4. Goldstein's 'Theory and Practice', Trotsky, and James Burnham

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the character of Emmanuel Goldstein in Nineteen Eighty-Four and the extent to which he was modelled on a particular historical figure, focusing in particular on: (i) Goldstein’s book ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’; (ii) the extent to which Goldstein (and his writings) appears at first glance to be a satire of Leon Trotsky; (iii) the difference between the ideas found in ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ and those of Trotsky himself, but the similarity to the writings of the conservative American writer, James Burnham; (iv) Burnham’s prediction that the world would coalesce into three ‘super-states’ which would avoid open war with one another; and (v) the importance in Burnham’s word view of the ‘new middle class’ (“salaried executives, engineers, managers and accountants and bureaucrats”) and the extent to which Ingsoc is based on exactly the same class of people (“bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organisers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians”).


In this course, Dr Adam Stock (York St John University) explores George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The first four modules cover historical and literary context, including the genre of the novel, the life and career of George Orwell himself, and the political ideologies that were swirling round Europe in thirties and forties and which left their mark on the novel. The following four modules focus on the text itself, thinking about its structure, and how it engages with the concepts of time and space, history and memory, epistemology and ontology and power and language. In the final three modules, we think about some critical approaches to the novel, focusing in particular on Orwell’s presentation of nature and the natural world, and of female characters in the novel.


Dr Adam Stock is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University. As a researcher, he specialises in the interdisciplinary areas of utopian studies, science fiction and modernisms. His book Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought: Narratives of World Politics (2019) examined dystopian fiction from the first half of the twentieth century, while he is currently interested in questions about boundaries and borderlands, spatialisation, and the temporalities of speculative fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Stock, A. (2021, February 16). Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four - Goldstein's 'Theory and Practice', Trotsky, and James Burnham [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Stock, A. "Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four – Goldstein's 'Theory and Practice', Trotsky, and James Burnham." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Feb 2021,